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Teen Dating Violence

Abuse in a relationship is about power and control, no matter what the age is of the victim or the abuser. Most abusers grew up in a home where they experienced and/or witnessed abuse. Most abusers exhibit abusive behaviors as early as adolescence or teen years, so teens and parents of teens need to be aware. Teen dating violence is domestic violence that occurs when one person in an intimate relationship – involving at least one teenager – exercises power and control over the other through a pattern of intentional behaviors, including psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

While most people are able to recognize an abusive relationship when it involves physical violence, relationships involving psychological or emotional abuse are more subtle, but no less destructive. If allowed to continue, these behaviors can escalate to include more physically dangerous abuse over time. Dating violence – like all abuse – is not a one time occurrence. Typically increasing in frequency and severity over time, domestic violence includes many different types of manipulative and coercive behaviors as tools to gain and maintain control.

No “typical” victim of teen dating violence exists. This crime can affect anyone from any socioeconomic, demographic, geographic or educational background. The greatest risk factor for victimization is simply being a woman.

Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications for victims. Many will continue to be abused in their adult relationships and are at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, and suicide.

Think it can’t happen to you?

Here are some scary statistics from various studies to consider:

  • About 1 in 3 high school students have been or will be involved in an abusive relationship. 30-50% of female high school students reported having already experienced teen dating violence.
  • 1 in 5 teens who been have in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped, or pushed by a partner. 1 in 3 teens reports knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped or physically hurt by a partner. 40% of teenage girls ages 14 to 17 say they know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.
  • 1 in 4 teens who have been in a serious relationship say their boyfriend or girlfriend has tried to prevent them from spending time with friends or family; the same number have been pressured to spend time only with their partner.
  • 45% of girls know a friend or peer who has been pressured into having either intercourse or oral sex.
  • 1 in 10 claim they have been threatened physically via electronic media, such as email, instant message, text. Nearly 1 in 5 (18%) say their partner used a networking site to harass or put them down.
  • 1 in 3 teens who have been in a relationship (30%) say they’ve been text messaged 10, 20, or 30 times an hour by a partner finding out where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 teens in a relationship (19%) say that their partner has used a cell phone or the internet to spread rumors about them.

No one abuser exhibits all forms of controlling behaviors, but look out for any of the following:

  • Checks your cell phone or email without your permission;
  • Constantly texts you;
  • Put-downs or name calling;
  • Gets mad if you talk to other boys/girls;
  • Makes all the decisions on how to spend money;
  • Criticizes your friends/family and discourages you from spending time with them;
  • Explosive temper and/or mood swings where little things set him/her off;
  • Physically hurting you (hit, punch, slap, etc.);
  • Wants all your attention and time;
  • Tells you what to do. You are not allowed to say “no;”
  • When you have an argument, you’re always wrong.

Is your partner threatening you verbally, psychologically, physically or sexually? Is he/she controlling, threatening or violent?

If you answered “Yes” to that question or aren’t sure, please take a look at the questions below.

Do these questions describe your partner’s actions?

  • Is your partner often exhibiting jealousy and possessiveness?
  • Is your partner prone to an explosive temper?
  • Is your partner not allowing you to have your own friends or spend time with them?
  • Is your partner threatening you, which makes you feel afraid?
  • Is your partner forcing you to share passwords for your voicemail, e-mail, facebook account, etc.?
  • Is your partner constantly checking up on you through phone calls, text messages, instant messages, and emails?
  • Is your partner using the internet or text messages to spread rumors about you?
  • Is your partner destroying things or possessions when angry?
  • Is your partner pushing, hitting, kicking, biting, strangling you, or pulling your hair?
  • Is your partner forcing you to have sex when you don’t want to?

SWiC’s 24-Hour Hotline

570.622.6220 or toll free at 800.282.0634

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Learn how to cover your tracks.

Because abuse is about power and control, leaving a violent relationship is the most dangerous time for a victim because the abuser knows he is losing control over you. So if you are thinking of breaking up with an abusive partner, make a safety plan. Schuylkill Women in Crisis (SWiC) advocates can help you – and your family – make a plan that maximizes everyone’s safety. Call SWiC’s 24-hour hotline at 570.622.6220 or 800.282.0634.

Here are some things to consider:

  • The abuser may threaten to harm your parents or other family members if you break up with them or disclose to them that you have had sex. Call SWiC for safety planning assistance in how to end the relationship in a way that keeps you and your loved ones safe.
  • Talk to your parents, a trusted teacher, school counselor, and school security. Let them know what is happening and that you are planning to end the relationship.
  • If you decide to break up with your partner, do it over the phone or in a public place. Have a friend or family member nearby if you need help.
  • Go to and from school, work, and activities with a trusted friend or adult. Change your route if possible.
  • Always walk with a friend between classes.
  • Change your passwords for your e-mail, facebook, social networking sites, instant messenger, twitter, etc. Better yet, as much as possible, close all your accounts and ·stay off of social media for a while.
  • Change your cell phone number. Give the new number only to trusted family and friends. Keep your cell phone charged and with you at all times. If your abuser gave you the cell phone, return it or destroy it. Giving a cell phone as a gift is a common way that abusers can locate the victim and keep track of her calls and texts.
  • If you have a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order, keep it with you at all times.

If/when you realize you are in an abusive relationship, you need to get help. SWiC’s hotline is available 24 hours/day, and callers can remain anonymous (570.622.6220 or 800.282.0634). Callers can also call the hotline if they would like to help a friend or loved one who they either know or suspect is being abused.

Leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for the victim, and getting help can increase your safety. Even though sometimes people blame victims or don’t believe them, you will be much safer if you get help, and you can start by talking to your parents/guardians.

  1. Ask yourself, would it be helpful to have a friend with you? If so, ask one to come along for support.
  2. Call SWiC’s hotline for advice from an advocate on how to approach your parents: 570.622.6220 or 800.282.0634.
  3. Set up a meeting time with your parents in a private, safe and comfortable setting.
  4. Let them vent their initial emotional reaction. They may be surprised, confused, angry, or sad. If their reaction is not helpful, seek also another adult – such as another trusted relative, neighbor, school guidance counselor, etc. – to get the support and help you need.
  5. Bring any pamphlets, literature, or printouts you may have about abusive relationships and teen dating violence to share with your parents.
  6. Have SWiC’s hotline number ready, in case you or your parents would like to call for support: 570.622.6220 or 800.282.0634.
  7. Provide them with specific examples of the abuse.
  8. Let them know that the most dangerous time for victims is when they try to leave the relationship. Ask for their support in creating a safety plan and helping you follow it.
  9. Keep in mind that you are taking an important step for your safety and health! You are taking a very courageous step!
  10. Remember, SWiC provides services to loved ones of victims, such as parents, including counseling and 24-hour hotline.

Call the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 1.866.331.8453.

Teen advocates are available 24 hours/day.

Victims, as well as friends and family members of victims,

can call SWiC’s 24-hour hotline, 570.622.6220 or 1.800.282.0634.


  • 81% of parents surveyed either believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
  • 75% of parents were unaware that their teen had been physically hurt or bruised by their partner.
  • 69% of parents were unaware that their teen was pressured by their partner to perform oral sex.
  • 67% of parents whose teens were checked up on 30 times per day on their cell phone were unaware this was happening.
  • 54% of parents admit they have not spoken to their child about dating violence.

Start the conversation

  • Begin discussing dating and healthy relationships before your child begins dating.
  • Set a good example through your own relationships with your significant other, family members, and friends.
  • Ask your child about their views on dating and relationships.
  • Use examples from television and movies to emphasize the characteristics of healthy relationships and signs of unhealthy relationships.

Why teens may not tell you about the abuse

They may be:

  • afraid you will make them break up;
  • embarrassed and ashamed;
  • afraid of getting hurt by their partner;
  • convinced the abuse is their fault;
  • worried that you will blame them or be disappointed;
  • inexperienced – they may think this is what dating is all about;
  • fearful of losing privileges like being able to stay out late

Could your teen be a victim?

Below are some common signs:

  • retreats from school or activities;
  • is isolated from friends;
  • wears clothing inappropriate for the weather to cover bruises and marks;
  • makes changes in clothing or makeup choices;
  • has visible marks and bruises;
  • spends excessive amounts of time with the person they’re dating;
  • constantly checks email, instant messages, text messages, etc.

How can you help your teen?

Here are a few ways:

  • recognize the signs of abuse;
  • ask questions and listen with an open mind and heart;
  • communicate openly with your teen;
  • respect your teen’s feelings;
  • be calm and take positive action;
  • set limits where appropriate;
  • avoid power struggles with your teen;
  • help set up a safety plan if your teen is trying to end the relationship;
  • deal with your anger and frustration in calm, reasoned, and constructive ways;
  • resolve conflicts with your teen early.

Visit A THIN LINE, MTV's Digital Dating Abuse Campaign for more resources regarding sexting, cyberbulling, and digital dating abuse.

Victims of any age or gender, as well as friends
and family members of victims, can call SWiC’s 24-hour hotline,
570.622.6220 or 1.800.282.0634.

Call the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 1.866.331.8453.

Teen advocates are available 24 hours/day.